Vic reaches two weeks of no COVID-19 cases

Benita Kolovos
·3-min read

The Victorian government has pledged funding for a national infectious disease centre in Melbourne, as the state recorded its 14th consecutive day without a coronavirus case or death.

Premier Daniel Andrews on Friday announced $155 million from the upcoming state budget will go towards establishing an Australian Institute for Infectious Disease, located next to the Doherty Institute in Parkville.

"This is a $155 million investment in changing lives, saving lives, creating jobs and making sure that the things that Melbourne and Victoria are renowned for become an even bigger part of our story in the decades to come," Mr Andrews said.

The $550 million institute will be tasked with leading the fight against future pandemics, with construction expected to begin next year and completed by 2025.

The University of Melbourne and its partners will invest $150 million into the facility, while Mr Andrews said he would present a case to the federal government to try to secure the remaining funds.

He said the construction phase would create about 350 jobs, while the institute would support up to 5000 jobs.

The facility will bring together experts from global biotechnology giant CSL, the Murdoch Children's Research Institute and the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute for Medical Research, among others.

The new facility will also become the new home of the Burnet Institute, which is currently based at The Alfred Hospital.

Its director Brendan Crabb welcomed the announcement.

"We will face future challenges, we could face even worse challenges, and we've still got very big ones today; endemics of the past that are still with us - HIV, TB, malaria, for example, as well as COVID-19," Professor Crabb said.

"This will safeguard Australia and the region."

It comes as the state reached the two-week milestone of no new COVID-19 cases and further deaths.

Doherty Institute director Sharon Lewin said the virus-free run, a feat unseen since February 22, was "fantastic news".

"A big secret to our success is coming out of our restrictions slowly, to make sure there is no silent transmission," she said.

Mr Andrews reflected on the "amazing sacrifice and the character of the Victorian community" before warning the pandemic was not over.

"Fourteen days of zero is not the same as having a vaccine," he said.

Just three active cases remain - two in the local government region of Greater Dandenong and one in Casey.

Despite the positive figures, Mr Andrews said the remaining coronavirus restrictions won't be eased before November 22.

"What we need to do is make sure that we have that biggest buffer possible before we take really big steps towards opening up, because it does serve that purpose," he said.

"If we can keep numbers very low for an extended period of time, we'll be able to keep them low for all of 2021."

Meanwhile, the premier has maintained the Department of Health and Human Services secretary Kym Peake did not resign.

Ms Peake is the third person to leave their post after appearing before the hotel quarantine inquiry, following Health Minister Jenny Mikakos and Department of Premier and Cabinet secretary Chris Eccles out the door.

"What she's done is she's not sought, and we have not renewed, her contract," Mr Andrews said.

"We thank her for her service and wish her well for her future."

The opposition believes it's the "perfect time" to split the DHHS into two departments.

Victoria's death toll from the virus stands at 819 and the national figure is 907.